Hot dog! There’s a new business opening up at 810 Beloit. It’s called Smokey Joel’s Red Hots and features Vienna beef hot dogs, home-style Italian beef and fresh Italian ice. Owner Joel Albright has longed to open his own business, ever since he began selling hot dogs at O’Hare Airport in 1989. To prepare, he “studied” at Vienna’s Hot Dog University, where he completed the two-day course on how to properly steam the dogs and buns.

When he was searching for a place to open his stand, Albright kept his eye on the cozy space on Beloit, just south of The Park. The former ice cream stand measures only 350 square feet, but it’s large enough to accommodate the equipment needed to turn out a top dog. 

He’s having his Grand Opening on the weekend of March 12-13.

Before opening the stand, Albright spent over 30 years in the automobile repair business. He moved to Forest Park eight years ago to be closer to his job, but the native South Sider has been hanging out in town since 1995. His family already had roots here, which is to say three generations are buried in Forest Home Cemetery. 

“I love Forest Park,” Albright said. “It has a real sense of community. It’s very business-friendly.” He has since gotten more involved in the community, volunteering at the Historical Society. He has also competed in the annual Rib Fest and has had several top 10 finishes. 

His Forest Park credentials aside, it will be the quality of the food and affordable prices, he said, that should attract customers. This is why Albright purchases his beef roasts at Ed’s Way and cooks them the old-fashioned way. He slow-roasts them for 10 hours with stock and seasoning to give the beef a straight-from-the-kitchen flavor. 

“We tried three different kinds of commercial brands of Italian beef,” Albright said, “and we hated them.” Albright will serve the beef with Pepperoncini on French rolls. 

As for the hot dogs and Polish sausage, he’s learned how to keep them from becoming “rubbery” by not over-steaming them. All of his sandwiches are reasonably priced and come with a bag of chips. He’s also hoping his Italian ice will be a hit. He borrowed the recipe from a successful stand on Taylor Street in Chicago. Albright will offer chili as well, when it’s in season.

He painted Smokey Joel’s in the traditional Vienna Beef colors: yellow and red, noting that the red represents ketchup, which should never be put on a hot dog. He had to make a few small improvements to comply with health regulations and has met village requirements and indicated that the mayor is very excited about the stand. He also has potential customers stopping by to see when he will open.

A vintage Vienna sign advertises the business. He also bought a 1966 NCR cash register to fit in with the old-fashioned feel. He believes the location has good visibility and is convenient to The Park and local businesses. It doesn’t hurt to be near the Forest Park Middle School, as Albright’s products are very kid-friendly. He hopes to attract kids to his Grand Opening by offering free pop with their sandwiches.

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.